directed by Brad Silberling
(Universal, 1995)

You would think Casper would just be a silly little film only a child could possibly love. Surprisingly, though, it's actually a very entertaining film that even manages to produce a poignant moment or two in between scenes of regular hilarity. The fact that Christina Ricci is in the movie doesn't hurt either -- that's the main reason I wanted to see it. The whole cast is actually quite good, even Bill Pullman (who I'm grudgingly beginning to halfway like for some crazy reason -- and yes, you do get one of those vintage Pullman turnaround shots before the movie ends). The non-human characters really steal the show, though, as Casper's uncles Stinkie, Stretch and Fatso are a real hoot and steal every scene they're in.

As far as the story goes, you've got this old abandoned mansion in Maine where Casper lives with his three obnoxious uncles. Casper is, of course, quite lonely, and his uncles will not tolerate humans at all. Then the old dude who owns the condemned place dies and leaves the house to his greedy daughter Carrigan (Cathy Moriarty), who comes running in search of a hidden treasure. She and her friend/partner in crime (Eric Idle) don't last more than a few seconds in the house. With a little secret encouragement from Casper, however, Carrigan finds out about a ghost shrink named Dr. James Harvey (Bill Pullman) and invites him to the house. Casper is overjoyed because he has a potential new friend in Harvey's daughter Kat (Christina Ricci). There are several little subplots that play out rather well, but it's mainly just a matter of sitting back and letting all the ghostly hi-jinx work their magic. That's not to say the movie isn't sad at times, as you can't help but feel sorry for poor lonely Casper.

I thought the animation and digital effects were done really well; it would have been so easy to go way over the top, but ILM knows what they are doing. It can't be easy to work with characters you can't even see (except via their stand-ins during filming), but I found the interaction between ghosts and humans to be very natural and believable. It's really a great family film because kids will surely enjoy all of the ghostly antics, adults will find themselves laughing along more often than not, and the movie definitely has a heart. You can also have fun spotting all of the many celebrity cameos that pop up all over the place. Sure, Casper is pretty goofy-looking, but you have to love him -- and Ricci is cute as a button.

by Daniel Jolley
18 February 2006

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